Lighting the Way to Greener Libraries

Indian Trails Public Library District, located in Wheeling, Ill., reopened its doors on April 10, 2017 after renovating the building and rebuilding in the space — making the way for a more contemporary, bright, open, and energy-efficient space for all uses and ages.

Racetrack Lighting YS

Photo Courtesy McShane Fleming Studios

Patrons now conduct research amid low wattage LED lighting, which is easier on their eyes and does not cast a shadow. The children’s department is the home to the longest LED racetrack lighting in North America. At 815 feet, this racetrack lighting adds a fun, lively and seamless feel to the department and the rest of the library. The space also has a skylight, which offers patrons natural light, especially during the long winter season. And, visitors can also snuggle up with a captivating book next to the gas fireplace.


But, the most relevant upgrade of the new building is the conversion of the pricey electric heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system to a more cost-efficient and cleaner system which features geothermal wells and natural gas boilers. The library currently houses 28 geothermal wells. Since the library reopened in April, it is still too early to report any energy savings since switching from electric to geothermal energy, although early indicators suggest significant cost savings on energy bills.

In September 2017, Indian Trails added green roofs to the west and south sides of the library on the second floor. The plant material is composed of sedum, which is a perennial plant that is native to the area and requires little or no maintenance. In the springtime the plant blooms star-shaped purple flowers.

In June 2017 the library learned that it had become the recipient of a $100,000 grant from EBSCO Information Services, a library resource provider for academic, public library, and government, and school customers. This grant is for the installation of a solar array at the library. The other $100,000.00 grant recipient was the Athens-Clarke County Library located in Athens, Ga.

“We are thrilled to receive this grant and be given the opportunity to further enhance our new building, stated Brian Shepard, the library executive director. “Through our expanded STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics] programming and makerspace initiatives, we hope to educate and inspire residents to explore the lasting benefits that sustainability practices contribute to an informed community.”

Since its doors reopened in April 2017, the response to the new facility has been overwhelmingly positive. In August, the library hosted the solar house exhibit from  the Illinois Solar Energy Association. When the solar panels are installed next year, the library will include programs for all ages about how  families can reduce their carbon footprint, and the benefits of solar energy.

What The Economy Has Taught Me About Being Green

I’m going to get a little personal in this post, which is unusual for me. But, I have been out of my full-time career for nearly three years, which is a written communications professional. It’s really irritating, but I’m working a “survivor” retail job full-time while working on writing and editing jobs on the side. So, needless to say, I’ve had to learn to become extremely frugal in these past few years, which in a way is another way of “being green”.

One thing I’ve learned is to make some of my own cleaning supplies — good old vinegar and water works just as good for cleaning windows as Windex and it’s cheaper. Sure, it may not smell as good, but who really needs all of those smelly chemicals anyway?

I’ve also rediscovered libraries and used bookstores! Reusing is the ultimate green task. Do you really need that hardcover fiction book sitting on your bookcase collecting dust? Probably not. I don’t know about you, but once I’ve read a fiction book I usually never read it again. But, if it’s a reference book, something I know I’m going to refer back to later on, then I go to a used book store. You can really find some gems at these stores — books or music that is out of print, titles you have been searching for forever, you’d be surprised!

I’m eating simpler now too, which is both easy on your pocketbook and your waistline. Also, I can’t afford to go anywhere, but I at least get out and go for a walk (as long as the weather cooperates — I live in the Midwest United States where winters can be terrible). But right now I get to enjoy the glorious fall that Mother Nature gives us.

Sure, I get down in the dumps and wonder if I’ll ever make decent money again — lots of times. But, when that happens I just go over to the library and check a book on CD out or a funny movie.

I would love to hear from you how you have become more frugal in these tough economic times.

And, if you or anyone you know of needs some written communications work, I do freelance writing and editing. Please contact me at or visit my Web site (which needs to be update, sorry) at